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What's the spread?
By Greg Auman
Published August 31, 2007
In its annual media guide, USF officially lists its offense as being a "multiple spread" system, and first-year offensive coordinator Greg Gregory says that's half-right.
"The most misleading thing about our offense is 'spread'" said Gregory, who coached USF's tight ends the previous two seasons and was promoted when Rod Smith left to coach West Virginia's quarterbacks. "We're just a multiple-formation one-back offense. This idea of a four-wide spread, that's what it was five years ago, under (quarterback Marquel) Blackwell. It's evolved. When (running back) Andre Hall entered the picture, things changed a little bit."
Not that being misleading is a bad thing. If anything, the strength of USF's offensive is its versatility. Gregory estimated that USF's offense lined up with two tight ends in almost 300 snaps last season, going with a single tight end in more than 500 snaps., which covers most of USF's 851 offensive plays in 2006.
"We were under center almost half the time last year, which is more than people realize," Gregory said. "It was about 40-some percent under center, mid-50s in the gun."
The biggest difference this fall should be a renewed commitment to running the ball, with freshmen Mike Ford, Aston Samuels and Jamar Taylor and sophomore Moise Plancher as key additions to junior Ben Williams, who was second to quarterback Matt Grothe on the team in rushing yards last year. The threat of the run should open up play-action passing.
"When the other team knows you're back there to throw the ball, you don't see balls going downfield. Everything is underneath passing," Gregory said. "The best way to get down the field in the pass game is run the ball, make them bite, fake it and throw it downfield."
USF has topped the 40,000 attendance mark in only four games in its 10-year history, with a record 49,212 in its first game against Kentucky Wesleyan and three big crowds during the Big East debut season in 2005. None of last year's six home games drew enough to rank higher than seventh (Pittsburgh, 35,671) on the all-time list.
Two of those three 2005 opponents return for key dates this year - West Virginia on Sept.28 and Central Florida on Oct.13 - and with the highest season-ticket sales since that first season, it's reasonable to think the Bulls could easily top 40,000 for home dates against UCF, Louisville and West Virginia.
Here are the top five home crowds in USF history:
49,212 Kentucky Wesleyan 1997
45,274 West Virginia 2005
45,139 Central Florida 2005
43,122 Florida A&M 2005
36,549 Army 2004
USF is entering its third season in the Big East, but there are only 10 Bulls who can say they played in games while USF was in Conference USA. Of those 10, only five were starters during the C-USA era: cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, defensive tackle Allen Cray, linebacker Ben Moffitt and safety Danny Verpaele.
Many of USF's top players started their college careers elsewhere, with a Big East-high nine Division I-A transfers - or more - on roster, all from BCS-conference schools.
Watch out for junior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who has played at Michigan State and Iowa State, and guard Ryan Schmidt, who started eight games last fall after transferring from Kansas State.
The others? Quarterback Grant Gregory (Indiana), receiver Courtney Denson (Auburn), linebacker Marvin Peoples (Maryland), defensive tackle Julian Riley (Florida), cornerback Ryan Gilliam (Oregon), running back Jamar Taylor (Alabama) and walk-on linebacker Lucas Darr (N.C. State).
By the time you read this, USF may have added another transfer in offensive tackle Matt Hardrick, who sought to join the Bulls after being dismissed from Florida State this month.
USF's roster has always been extremely Florida-focused, and this year's is no different, with only nine players from outside the state. With a game every other year in Tampa, the rest of the Big East continues to recruit the state heavily, combining for 107 Florida players on their media-guide rosters. Here's the breakdown: